Saturday, February 16, 2013

How I turned a Christmas present into a book--The Wizard's Workshop.



I admit it—I’m a nut when it comes to picking out gifts for my kids. A cracked nut that goes completely crazy, spending hours and hours trying to come up with the perfect gift. Sticking to a tight budget, I can’t afford to bomb out in this department. You know what I mean—kid spots a fabulous toy in the story—can’t live without it—mom buys toy—toy is enthusiastically played with (for 48 hours), and then it sits on the self for the next 2 years. Ugh!  

This year I tried a new strategy and really paid attention to how my children played. I noticed that my girls play make-believe—a lot.  It’s a kind of wizard game where they choose powers and they build a story which they act out. I hear conversations like:

“I create a large wave with my wind power and I push it at you.” (Hands in the air and lots of swishing noises.)

“But I freeze the water with my wand and I run over here.” (Hides behind a chair.) “This is my cave and I put a shield over it so you can’t come in.”

The story goes on and on with the two girls using their powers against each other until they discover that they are actually long lost sisters and then together they must fight the evil wizard that had kept them apart in the first place.

I also noticed that my girls (and their friends) would come into the kitchen to make potions. Water, a bit of food coloring, dirt, a twig, and three leaves all mixed together could somehow vanquish an evil foe. This is where my case of nuttiness kicked in. I wanted to come up with something that would enhance their make-believe play time. Then it hit me—like a bolt of lightning across the forehead—and yes it left a scar. I was going to make my kids . . . a potions kit! 

The initial idea was basic—a small antique chest filled with old bottles, a quill pen, a list of spells on parchment paper, and a hand-made potions book that utilized a few science experiments. I wanted my girls to be able to actually mix some kitchen ingredients together and get a chemical reaction.

Like I said, I’m a nut. I spent over 6 months researching science experiments. I perused through every science book in our local library and ordered several more through the interlibrary loan program. I watched over 1000 internet videos on various science experiments and searched countless websites. My mail box had regular deliveries of things like potassium nitrate, manganese dioxide, potassium iodide. I half expected homeland security to show up on my doorstep, but they never came. However, my husband would come home to find things bubbling over on the counter and scorch marks on our front porch. As I write this, I still have a gooey mess of ferric oxide in the dining room—there’s got to be an easier way to make that stuff.

After all that work, I ended up with a very select compilation of experiments to add to my potions book.  My criteria for selecting an experiment:

1) It had to have a huge wow factor—something that the kids would want to do over and over again.

2) The experiments had to be able to translate into a wizard’s potion. There is some cool science behind things like building a rocket, or using centrifugal force to keep water in a bucket as you swing it over your head, but they don’t really fit as “potions”. I only selected experiments that had a magical reaction.
  
3) Experiments have to take 30 minutes or less to complete. When a child is playing make-believe and needs a potion to defeat an evil sorcerer, they need something that will work now—not in 3 days when they’ve moved on to another game. 
     
4) Ingredients had to be fairly easy to get without costing you an arm or a leg and that wouldn’t bring Home Land Security down on you.

So after all that, I came up with the perfect potions book which will allow kids to catch night fairies, break a witch’s spell, tell if a ghost is nearby, overpower a werewolf, and so much more. My little potions kit for my kids ended up being a full-blown potions cupboard and their friends always insist at playing at our house now. 

So that’s it—the perfect gift that provided countless hours of fun for kids as well as adults. It’s been such a huge hit, and I’m so excited to share it with everyone, I’ve decided to fine-tune the book and get it published.  

I hope the world is ready for some awesome potions. Check out The Wizard’s Workshop page in the sidebar to learn more. 
Potions Cupboard


Potion ingredients. Used medicine bottles with labels of my own design.

Potions box with additional supplies.


The original potion book I made for my kids.

One of my original potions. Each page was hand stained to give it the feel of an antique book.

11 comments:

  1. That's really cool, Jennifer. My boys would love something like that. The presentation is beautiful, too. I love the labels.

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  2. WOW! That is so AMAZING!! It's so cool that you took so much time and figured it out but then to MAKE a book (that looks super professional already!) and do all that work - you are awesome!! I've made apothecary jars with labels and such for decorations for Halloween and parties and such but I love how you incorporated that with actual stuff that works. I would buy that book! :)

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  3. What a great idea! It looks wonderful. I'd buy it.

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  4. I want this to give to my grandchildren!!Let me know when it is published. If you could include your fancy
    labels for people to put on their own jars or bottles that would be awesome.

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  5. This is so awesome! I am with Tabitha, I want this book. Heck, I want the whole kit and cupboard! You said the paper in the book was hand stained, does this mean that you hand bound the book as well?

    I love the collection of wands and the old and eclectic collection of bottles. This is wildly fantastic!!

    Can I come over to your house to play? ;)

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    Replies
    1. Sure, you can come and play! And I've been thinking about putting up a post that describes how I made the book. Hand binding them isn't very hard, and it's fun to do.

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  6. That is sooooo cool! You get Super Awesome Mom of the year award! I love the bottles and book and cupboard. Stupendous idea.

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  7. that is so aweseome! you are one very dedicated mama!

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  8. A woman after my own heart! I remember once I was in a meeting with parents who were complaining about how hard it was for their kids to write creative fiction, since they were living lives based in reality. I leaned over to a friend and noted that my kids were being raised "with their feet firmly planted in fantasy." Love the idea, the reasons for starting the project, the way you did it, everything!

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